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Diwali: A brief history

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated with fervor and gaiety.

The festival is celebrated by young and old, rich and poor, throughout the country to dispel darkness and light up their lives.

The festival symbolizes unity in diversity as every state celebrates it in its own special way.

Naraka Chaturdasi

The celebration of the four-day festival commences on Aswayuja Bahula Chaturdasi and concludes on Kartika Shudda Vijiya.

The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.

‘Puranas’ have it that Naraka, son of Bhudevi, acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma after a severe penance.

Death

He soon unleashed a reign of terror in the kingdom of Kamarupa, harassing celestial beings with his invincible might.

•    Unable to bear the tyranny of the demon, the celestial beings pleaded with Lord Krishna to save them from his torture.
•    But Naraka could not be easily killed as he had a boon that he would face death only at the hands of his mother Bhudevi.
•    So, Krishna asks his wife Satyabhama, the reincarnation of Bhudevi, to be his charioteer in the battle with Naraka.

When Krishna feigns unconsciousness after being hit by an arrow of Naraka, Satyabhama takes the bow and aims the arrow at Naraka, killing him instantly.

Later Lord Krishna reminds her of the boon she had sought as Bhudevi.

Bonds

The slaying of Naraka by Sathyabhama could also be taken to interpret that parents should not hesitate to punish their children when they stray on to the wrong path.

The message of Naraka Chaturdasi is that the good of the society should always prevail over one’s own personal bonds.

The second day is Amavasya when Lakshmi puja is performed.

It is believed that on this day Goddess Lakshmi would be in her benevolent mood and fulfill the wishes of her devotees.

Land

One version says that it was on this day that Goddess Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagara (Ocean of Milk) when the Gods and demons were churning the sagara (ocean) for nectar (Amrit)

The other version is that when Lord Vishnu in the guise of Vamana, sought three feet of land from the generous demon king Bali, the latter had to surrender his head as Vamana had conquered the earth and the sky in two strides.

•    Lord Vishnu banishes Bali into the Pathala Loka (netherland) by keeping his third stride on Bali’s head.
•    Later, pleased by his generosity, Lord Vishnu grants him a boon and he in turn requests the Lord to guard his palace at Pathala Loka.

Riches

Meanwhile, the Goddess is unable to bear the separation and her grief affects the functioning of the entire universe.

Brahma and Lord Shiva offer themselves as guards and plead with Bali to relieve Vishnu.

So, on the Amavasya day, Lord Vishnu returns to his abode and Goddess Lakshmi is delighted.

It is believed that those who worship Goddess Lakshmi on this day would be bestowed with all the riches.

Homes

The third day is “Kartika Shudda Padyami.” On this day Bali would come out of Pathala Loka and rule Bhuloka as per the boon given by Lord Vishnu.

Hence, it is also known as “Bali Padyami”.

•    The fourth day is referred to as “Yama Dvitiya.” On this day, sisters invite their brothers to their homes.

•    However, in the northern part of India it is celebrated as the return of Ram along with Sita and Lakshman from his 14 years of exile after killing Ravana.

Year

To commemorate his return to Ayodhya, his subjects illuminated the kingdom and burst crackers.

For the Gujaratis, Marwaris and other business community Diwali marks the worship of Goddess Lakshmi and also the beginning of the new financial year.

For Bengalis, it is the time to worship Goddess Kali or Durga. The Goddess Durga continued her “Vilaya Tandava” even after killing demon Mahishasura.

By Andria Greaves, e-mail: andria_greaves@yahoo.com

To find out about Diwali in Harrow, click here

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November 14, 2008 Posted by | Andria - Home Current Affairs | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Diwali Greetings

A night picture of the Neasden temple

A night picture of the Neasden temple

Sweets, gifts and a firework display to mark the festival of lights, as Andria Greaves reports.

Volunteer Ayesha Patel is joining Harrow’s Hindu community for their Diwali festival.

The plucky helper is also a tour guide at the Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple, in Kenton, where more than 4,000 Hindus pray.

Diwali marks the start of the Hindu New Year and is considered a time to pray for good fortune.

Many high school students were also present at this event today, with the aim of learning more about the Hindu Religion and customs.

“This is like our Christmas and as such it’s celebrated by Hindus all over the country,” says Ayesha, while hugging and kissing well wishers at the temple.

“It’s gratifying to see the temple at the heart of the Hindu Harrow community and it’s used for a wider community in Harrow, for entertainment, education and other social activities as well.”

Many of the worshippers at the temple are from the Kutch district of Gujarat state in western India.

Mrs Patel, who like most of the married women, has a red dot on her forehead, said: “More than anything this day is about diversity and understanding. For instance, I’m studying for my final AAT accountancy exams.

“When it comes to finance, everybody needs understanding!”

Diwali is genuinely known as the festival of lights and is signified by the lighting of lamps to signify good overcoming evil within every person.

In many parts of India and Nepal, it’s the home coming of Lord Rama after a 14 year exile in the forest with Sita  – the female love of his life, after he defeated the evil and demonic Ravan.

The people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Rama and Sita by lighting rows of lamps to their safe return.

“Diversity and exclusivity make uneasy bedfellows. We should all enjoy each other’s festivals,” adds Ayesha.

“I’m very pleased to see that police students will also be celebrating Diwali with the Hindu community.

At the same time, Mrs Patel was keen to stress how much the temple is accepted by everyone within the borough, thanks to the public’s open acceptance of differences.

“An understanding of all communities and religions is essential in providing a modern, inclusive and balanced police service.

“The police officers of the future attending events like this can only promote that healthy understanding.”

The celebration ends tonight with a grand firework display, celebrated with friends and family of all races.

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Andria - Home Current Affairs | | 1 Comment